10 Picture Books About the Dark

By Lela Nargi

The start of a new school year presents lots of challenges, even for kids who are seasoned pros at separating from their parents and spending whole days in the classroom. Old anxieties, long thought to have been put to rest, rear up all over again, especially as night falls and a new, challenging day looms on the horizon.

One of the most common recurring anxieties: fear of the dark. To alleviate it, here we've rounded up 10 new picture books that are sure to show the unique beauties of nighttime and hopefully, banish any fear of it from your little one's bedroom—this autumn and long beyond.

Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer. A reprint of an award-winning classic by beloved and prolific children's author Tomi Ungerer. What happens when the Man in the Moon decides to take a romp on Earth? A strange and hilarious fairy-tale adventure that will make nighttime kids guffaw out loud (ages 4-8, $17).

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett. This visually engaging book addresses fear of the dark head-on. When Dark personified comes to take terrified young Orion on a tour of all that's marvelous about the night, little by little the boy's fear starts to diminish—to be replaced with a sense of wonder at all the adventure a bit of dark and shadow can provide (ages 4-9, $17).

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara. A young librarian and her three assistant owls staff a magical library that's only open at night. A charming story told in rhyme that's sure to be a favorite read-aloud before lights-out (ages 3-6, $17).

The Game in the Dark & The Game of Light by Hervé Tullet. The French author/illustrator is a master at understanding what fascinates young minds and these two books, part of a larger series meant to be explored in the dark, are no exception. In the first, children must dim the room to create shadows of fish and faces and stars on their walls and ceiling; in the second, solar-charging pages in the daytime makes them glow in the dark once night falls (ages 3+, $10/$13).

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando. A tale of opposites, in which a day-loving black cat and a night-loving white cat set out to discover what's so special about the 12-hour cycle they know nothing about. A great reminder to dark-fearing children that the intense beauties of stars and fireflies can never be viewed in daytime—reason enough to hit the "off" switch (ages 2-5, $14).

Good Night, Firefly by Gabriel Alborozo. When the electricity goes out, taking an all-important nightlight with it, a young girl is introduced to the joys of night play. The book makes such a strong case for the pleasures of the dark, you might find your own tyke demanding that you shut off the lights earlier than ever, to get in a little shadow-puppet action before bed (ages 3-7, $17).

Rufus: The Bat Who Loved Colors by Tomi Ungerer. Another brilliant reprint of a Tomi Ungerer classic—this one about a bat who would rather be colorful than boring all-black. Until, that is, an encounter with a scientist who mistakes him for a rare butterfly shows him the importance of being himself. Less a celebration of night than of one of its important creatures, a fact that can lead to much discussion of the special animals that emerge only after the sun goes down (ages 4-7, $17).

At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin. Nighttime is just another component of the usual cycle of a day. While one boy sleeps (or in our reality, fears sleep), around the world other boys and girls are eating breakfast, playing music, shopping for groceries—mundanities that will be enjoyed by everyone once a good night's sleep has come to pass. Includes a fold-out world map that is perfect for perusing with bedtime procrastinators (ages 5-8, $18).

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. This gorgeously illustrated book, further enhanced with page cutouts, wordlessly follows a young boy as he explores the nighttimes woods with his flashlight. A lovely visual introduction to raccoons and skunks, foxes and porcupines, luna moths and deer, as well as to the concept that what lurks in the dark is something to be celebrated rather than something worthy of fear (ages 2-6, $17).